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Annexing the remainder of Roseland into Santa Rosa is such a complex, politically delicate undertaking that it will take at least $1.4 million just to study and nearly 4 years to complete.

That's what the City Council will hear Tuesday when city staff present it with a road map outlining all the steps needed before the 620-acre island of unincorporated land can enjoy the services most residents take for granted.

City and county leaders say they understand that some residents will be frustrated by such a lengthy process, but they stressed that there are simply no shortcuts for a project of this magnitude.

"It's not as easy as snapping your fingers and saying 'Ta Da! You're annexed,'" said Santa Rosa Mayor Scott Bartley. "That's one of the reasons it hasn't happened to date. It has always collapsed under the weight of the task."

Fifth District Supervisor Efren Carrillo, who represents the area, said he's encouraged by the city's efforts but hopeful the process can be accelerated.

"I think that the residents of Roseland and southwest Santa Rosa deserve a more immediate and prompt process than the four-year timeline suggested by staff," Carrillo said.

A 300-acre area at the northern end of Roseland was annexed by the city in 1997. A push in the mid-2000s to finish the job stalled in 2008 when the city and county couldn't reconcile how to fund the higher cost of police services to the area.

Last year the City Council made the annexation of the remainder of Roseland its top priority, instructing Community Development Director Chuck Regalia to come up with a game plan for how to get it done. The Oct. 22 shooting of 13-year-old Andy Lopez by a sheriff's deputy in the unincorporated Moorland Avenue neighborhood south of Roseland added urgency to the effort.

The city has since won a $647,000 planning grant aimed at focusing future growth in the southwest area around transit hubs. That planning work is expected to streamline annexation by stimulating community interest and funding studies that will be useful to both processes.

The city and the county are now "on the same page" about finding a way to make the annexation a reality, said 3rd District Supervisor Shirlee Zane.

"We know there are going to be some challenges, but it's time to roll up our sleeves and find solutions and play well together in the sandbox to really move this forward," Zane said.

The plan Regalia will outline Tuesday details four separate but interrelated efforts.

The first is the development of a Roseland Area Specific Plan, a comprehensive planning document sketching out the future growth of the 1,860-acre area of southwest Santa Rosa, including the 620 acres of Roseland that remains unincorporated.

The effort, mostly funded by the $647,000 grant, will guide future development in the densely populated area around a bus transfer center on Hearn Avenue. It will include public workshops run by consultants to engage residents in their vision of the future of their community. Properties will be rezoned to align with the new plan, and the new zoning would be consistent with the city's zoning so it could carry over following annexation.

About $400,000 of the work, particularly the zoning effort, would help pave the way for annexation. This effort, which is already underway, is expected to begin in earnest in June and last for two years.

California temporary cultivation licenses issued as of March 15:

(Multiple licenses may be held by a single entity)

532 Santa Barbara County

491 Humboldt County

349 Mendocino County

263 Monterey County

158 Calaveras County

116 Los Angeles County

105 Trinity County

105 Riverside County

59 Sacramento County

58 Sonoma County

51 Yolo County

51 Alameda County

34 San Bernardino County

27 Santa Cruz County

25 Santa Clara County

20 Stanislaus County

11 San Francisco County

5 Shasta County

4 San Diego County

4 Lake County

5 San Luis Obispo

3 San Benito County

3 Contra Costa County

3 Kern County

2 Colusa County

1 Madera County

1 Solano County

1 El Dorado County

1 Fresno County

1 Siskiyou County

1 Tulare County

The second effort aims to figure out how much annexation will cost and how it will be accomplished. Infrastructure needs like roads, sidewalks and streetlights and services including police and fire protection will all be analyzed. The mechanics of the annexation will also be studied. Staff will gauge support for annexation, present the finding to the City Council, which will then set the boundaries and then decide whether to move forward.

This work is expected cost about $700,000, mostly in staff time. Regalia's plan calls for it to begin in August and be completed by March 2016. But Bartley said he'll be looking to speed that process up by several months.

The third process involves the city and the county hashing out the details over how to pay for annexation. A joint city-county subcommittee made up of Bartley, Councilwoman Robin Swinth, Councilman Jake Ours, Zane and Carrillo is charged with those negotiations.

Studies have shown that Roseland, a densely-populated area with a high percentage of Latino residents, few high-volume retailers and a legacy of underground pollution, would cost the city far more than would be generated from the area's sales and property taxes.

How that gap is funded, by whom and for how long are difficult questions. Though the total dollar value won't yet be known by the end of the year, Bartley said he hopes to have an agreement in principal in place by then.

Already, however, there are differing views on how to fund the improvements and services. Board of Supervisors Chairman David Rabbitt signaled recently that the county might want to broaden the annexation discussion to include other areas whose tax base might offset the needs facing Roseland.

But Bartley said he feels strongly that the city needs to focus for the moment only on annexing Roseland to keep the process from getting bogged down.

"I hate to say no to anything at this point, but I don't want to do anything that's going to stall this," Bartley said.

If the first three processes succeed, then the final phase is the application process set out by Sonoma County's Local Agency Formation Commission, or LAFCO, which sets the boundaries of government agencies. That process is expected to last a year and a half and not be completed until November of 2017, according to Regalia's plan.

If fewer than 25 percent of the residents object to annexation, it is automatically approved. If more than 50 percent protest, the plan dies. Anywhere in between sends the issue to a vote, with a simple majority needed for approval.

In the past, many residents of Roseland have opposed annexation, preferring the freedoms that come from living in a semi-rural area to what they view as additional regulations that come with city living. Residents of unincorporated Roseland, for example, can — and many do — keep goats and other livestock.

Regalia said he knows that some vocal opponents of past annexation efforts now support it, but he doesn't know how most feel. Surveys and public meetings will try to figure that out, he said.

It will be a "leap of faith" to spend the money exploring the issue without knowing for sure how residents perceive the plan, Bartley said. But he said "it's the right thing to do" because it doesn't make sense to have islands of the unincorporated land floating inside city limits.

While it will be a difficult undertaking across multiple departments and will require some other council priorities to wait, when the annexation is complete the city will be better off for it, Bartley said.

"This'll be a hell of an accomplishment for the city," he said.

(You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or kevin.mccallum@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @citybeater.)

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